Math for Understanding: Angles are All Around Us

By 4th grade teachers Diane Berin, Maureen Cuesta and Miriam Pickus

Each year, 4th graders at Parker immerse themselves in math through multiplication, geometry, fractions and more. However, a favorite topic among Intermediate School students is geometry—and there’s a good reason for it.

Typically, when they learn geometry at this grade level, students must identify right, obtuse and acute angles—usually on paper. For children, identifying angles can be difficult, as is connecting visuals and vocabulary. For adults, it’s obvious that angles are everywhere, but children do not always see edges or shapes of objects; instead, they focus on their whole or totality. Equipped with that knowledge, our team developed the Angle Hunt as an interactive geometry lesson to help students easily learn to recognize the borders of objects and identify different types of angles. Since its inception, each 4th grade classroom participates in an Angle Hunt.

To begin, as students “hunt” for angles around the school, they carry small right triangles, which helps them become familiar with angle size and determine whether angles are equal to, smaller than or larger than right angles. Deepening students’ understanding of what an angle is and how to measure it sets the stage as they progress through different phases of math in the Middle and Upper Schools. We have also found that one immediate effect of this activity is that understanding and using the vocabulary around geometry becomes easier and much more natural within explanations of our students’ mathematical thinking.

As teachers, we love this lesson because it offers students a developmentally appropriate, real-world application. Math is everywhere, and this is an easy way to show it. As angles are all around us, the Angle Hunt is about bringing students into awareness of the math in their surroundings and exploring the idea of geometry outside of the classroom, setting and applying it, in a small way, to the outside world. Plus, moving around Parker’s campus offers a shift in energy. The engagement level among students is high and this helps to make their learning sticky.

A few years ago, we invited Big Brothers and Big Sisters to work with our 4th graders on the Hunt. We often integrate Big Brothers and Big Sisters into projects or games in class, but the bonus of working with older students makes this activity more special and uniquely Parker. 
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.